COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Ghana becomes first country to receive Covid-19 vaccine through COVAX program
Ghana is today getting the world’s first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization's COVAX program, which aims to deliver vaccines to low and middle-income countries that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.

The country of 30 million is getting 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India. Ghana has reported at least 80,759 cases of Covid-19 and 582 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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Pfizer, Moderna, J&J pledge 240 million total Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of March
The United States can expect to receive 240 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by the end of March, drug companies told a House subcommittee Tuesday.

Pfizer and Moderna -- the two companies with Covid-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States -- have pledged to make a combined total of 220 million doses available for shipment by the end of March.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, which could secure emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine from the US Food and Drug Administration later this week, has pledged to make 20 million doses available in the same period.
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Educators may be more central drivers of Covid-19 in schools than students, CDC study finds
A study that found teachers -- not students -- were the probable source of several school-related Covid-19 outbreaks highlights the need to maintain safety measures, and to prioritize teachers and school staff for vaccination, the CDC said.
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Biden says administration will 'probably' mail out millions of masks soon
"We're probably going to be sending out an awful lot of masks around the country very shortly, millions of them," Biden said during a roundtable event with Black frontline workers. He said that the issue of masks was turned into a political issue, which cost "an awful lot of lives."

"We could have saved literally an awful lot of lives if people had listened. We turned wearing masks into a political statement. If you were for this thing, you wore it, if we were for somebody else, you didn't wear it, when in fact, it's just plain basic science," Biden said.

... Studies have shown, and Dr. Anthony Fauci has pointed out many times, masks are the single most effective way to protect yourself and others from getting infected with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, the disease.

"Masks are a two-way street. Masks protect you and me" by preventing the spread of droplets and aerosol that may contain the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its mask guidance.

Biden has called on everyone to wear a mask when out in public, and he has made it mandatory on federal property. Masks are required on public transportation and in airports and transit stations.
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Biden Administration To Deliver 25 Million Masks To Health Centers And Food Banks
The federal government will distribute some 25 million masks to more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens across the country, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said at a briefing. The White House said in a press release that the masks will be available between March and May, and are expected to benefit some 12 to 15 million Americans.

"Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly, not all Americans have access, and not all masks are equal," Zients said. "With this action, we are helping to level the playing field, giving vulnerable populations quality, well-fitting masks."

Anyone who needs a mask will be able to pick one up at participating locations, Zients said, adding that the "high-quality, American-made" masks will be free, washable and available in both adult and children sizes.
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Biden's Covid plan gets backing from more than 150 top business leaders
The group of executives includes the top executives representing some of the powerful business interests in the US, ranging from bank and investment firms like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone, to technology companies like Google, Intel and IBM, to hospitality companies like Loews Hotels & Co. and airlines including American and United Airlines. Top executives from real estate, insurance and utility firms also signed on to the letter.

"Previous federal relief measures have been essential, but more must be done to put the country on a trajectory for a strong, durable recovery," the executives wrote in the letter addressed to bipartisan congressional leaders that will be sent Wednesday. "Congress should act swiftly and on a bipartisan basis to authorize a stimulus and relief package along the lines of the Biden-Harris administration's proposed American Rescue Plan."

... Republican support, to this point at least, has remained non-existent, with even moderate GOP senators amenable to talks calling Biden's proposal too large in scale and scope given the trillions in emergency aid deployed over the first year of the pandemic.

... "Now critics say the plan is too big," Biden said at the White House on Monday. "Let me ask the rhetorical question -- what would you have me cut? What would you have me leave out?" The letter from business leaders serves to bolster Democratic arguments about the size of the package.

"Strengthening the public health response to coronavirus is the first step toward economic restoration," the executives wrote. "The American Rescue Plan mobilizes a national vaccination program, delivers economic relief to struggling families, and supports communities that were most damaged by the pandemic."
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Deaths Fell in Japan Last Year. How?
The decline indicated that methods for fighting the coronavirus have also been effective at curbing other illnesses.

Deaths in Japan fell last year for the first time in more than a decade, a jarring contrast to the huge death tolls suffered by many countries in the pandemic and a signal that Japan’s coronavirus measures have had positive spillover effects.

... While masks were already a common sight in Japan, over the past year, they have become de rigueur as a virus-fighting measure.

The country has also widely adopted other steps to prevent transmission of the virus, including the placement of hand sanitizer at the entrance to virtually every commercial space and workplace, and broad adherence to government recommendations to avoid the “three C’s”: closed spaces, crowded places and close contact with others.

One other, albeit small, factor is a decrease in traffic accidents as fewer people took to the roads, especially as the government twice declared states of emergency. Deaths from road accidents dropped nearly 12 percent in 2020, to 2,839, according to data maintained by the National Police Agency. It was the lowest number since the agency began tracking the data in 1948.
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Fed's Powell clearly backs Democrats' large-scale stimulus proposal, Sen. Sherrod Brown says
  • It's "clear" Fed Chair Powell supports large-scale fiscal stimulus, Sen. Sherrod Brown said Tuesday.
  • Passing too-little a plan risks "long-ter, generational scarring" in the economy, the senator added.
  • Wealthy Americans have recovered but new stimulus is needed to lift lower-income groups, Brown said.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's testimony to the Senate Banking Committee further supported President Joe Biden's call for massive fiscal support, Sen. Sherrod Brown said Tuesday.

The central bank chief completed the first of his two regular hearings on the state of the economy on Tuesday, emphasizing to senators that, though his outlook has improved, the economy remains far from a full rebound. Powell, in typical Fed-chair behavior, avoided directly addressing fiscal policy and Democrats' $1.9 trillion proposal, and instead eased inflation concerns and highlighted the importance of economic equality.

The omission of explicit support for new stimulus shouldn't worry Democrats, Brown said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

"It's clear though that [Powell] thinks we need to go big, as President Biden does," the Senate Banking Committee Chairman said, adding an inadequate response to the pandemic risks "long-term, generational scarring" in the economy.

... "We're not at the place yet where this economy is going to take off," he said. "Most people in this country still need help and we need to move to do that."
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FDA review confirms safety and efficacy of single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, especially against severe cases
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, administered in a single jab, is safe and protective. That's an assessment from the Food and Drug Administration, which released its review of the company's clinical trial results today and confirmed the J&J vaccine completely prevented deaths and hospitalizations.

The pandemic has entered a complicated phase. This vaccine got a more nuanced review, particularly around variants, which were not factors in the FDA's earlier evaluations of the Moderna and Pfizer shots. Next up for J&J: On Friday, outside experts will convene to recommend whether the FDA should grant emergency authorization.
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Doctors and nurses face endless covid misinformation battle
Battling the pandemic does not stop for these clinicians when their shift ends. Some doctors, nurses and other medical professionals take the fight online, after hours, to combat falsehoods about the coronavirus. One effort, named #ThisIsOurShot, is a campaign of more than 25,000 health-care workers to encourage people to get vaccines.
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She needed a vaccine appointment before open-heart surgery. She got it from a stranger on Nextdoor.
A stranger gave her vaccine appointment to a Texas woman who needed the shot before open-heart surgery.
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With outbreaks at gyms in Chicago and Honolulu, the C.D.C. stresses masks for fitness buffs.
Public health officials urged gymgoers to wear masks and practice social distancing after new research described the rapid spread of infections during high-intensity exercise classes at gyms in Honolulu and Chicago.

Heavy breathing during intense physical activity in confined, indoor spaces enhances transmission, and fitness teachers who shouted exercise instructions to members may also have contributed to the spread, the C.D.C. research found. Mask regulation varies by state. Exercising outdoors or taking virtual fitness classes could help reduce infection risk, the authors noted.
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Fry’s Electronics, a favorite of tech enthusiasts, will cease operations.
Fry’s Electronics, a big-box retailer that nurtured a generation of do-it-yourself tech fans and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, announced on Wednesday that it was shutting down operations, effective immediately.

The company, which is based in San Jose, Calif., replaced the contents of its website with a statement that said it had ceased operations and had begun winding down. The retailer, which built a cult following on the West Coast but was unable to compete with the rise of Amazon, blamed the shutdown on “changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia